A Google application recently approved by the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Board of Education could help parents keep a better tab on their children’s grades — but some worry the new technology might not reach the parents who need it the most.
The board voted last week to implement Engrade — a Google app that serves as an online gradebook — for all middle and high schools in the district starting next school year.
The app allows parents and students with Google accounts 24/7 access to teachers’ gradebooks, so they can instantly see when a student’s grade drops.
“Our district has really never had a standard across all schools for online gradebooks,” said Ray Reitz, the district’s chief technology officer.
“This was an attempt, at least, for the district to support one online gradebook program that has been very well received in a couple of our schools.”
But Dana Griffin, an assistant professor in the UNC School of Education, said schools should be wary that parents who they want to reach most might not be on the Internet, which was the case in the districts she researched in 2009.
“Even using an app like this, only a certain population will have access. Schools will not reach the parents they want to reach,” she said.
Reitz said the district has taken this into account, and each school offers paper progress reports as well.
“The district understands that there is a digital divide in our community,” he said. “We are currently working with the town and several local organizations to develop solutions to this challenge.”
The district began testing the program at Carrboro High School and Smith Middle School in 2009, and implemented the program throughout the entire school this year.
Smith Middle School Technology Specialist Kevin Harvey said the school has responded well to the app.
“Communication with families has always been a priority, and this is one way that we can communicate information that families want and need more effectively,” he said.
And Griffin said increased communication about grades can raise student achievement.
“Teachers might think Cs are fine, because a student isn’t failing,” Griffin said. “But some parents might want to know that their child is making Cs, because they know or think their child can do better.”
But she warned against “helicopter parenting,” or parents behaving overbearingly.
“You have parents who may see bad grades and come in and intervene before the child has a chance to,” she said. “But other parents will put the responsibility where it needs to be — on the kid.”
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